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Pastry School: Buttermilk Biscuit Secrets

Updated on May 20, 2011

Holle's pastry school - southern food

Welcome to my pastry school and online cooking school! Today's pastry is a wonderful southern food - buttermilk biscuits. I attended one of those formal pastry schools, where I learned many basics, but I've largely expanded my techniques through trial and error. As a result, you can benefit for free, without having to actually go to one of the pastry schools!

I come from a long family of biscuit cooks and biscuit eaters. My grandfather liked the tasty bread so much that he had my grandmother make a big pan with almost every meal. He always said there was no such thing as a bad biscuit - some are better than others, but a bad biscuit is an oxymoron, according to my soul food loving Papa..

I've eaten many, many biscuits over the years, and my mom made the best! One type she made had yeast in them, and I haven't found her recipe for those yet, but I do have her recipe for butermilk biscuits, along with a couple of "secrets" she shared with me.

First of all, the brand of flour you use is very important, though it's often overlooked. You need White Lily self-rising flour. Another secret is to keep it in the freezer. I'm not sure why this makes a difference, but it does.

To make this recipe, you'll need:

2 cups White Lily self-rising flour (plus more for handling)

1 egg solid shortening (a ball of shortening the size of an egg - I use Crisco)

1 cup whole buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar


Dump the cold flour into a large bowl - do not sift. Add the salt and sugar.

Add the shortening and blend until the mixture resembles course meal. You can use a fork, a pastry cutter, or your fingers.

Gradually add the buttermilk, up to 3/4 cup. if the dough is too dry and is not holding together, you can add up to another 1/4 cup. Dough should not be sticky.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead it just a couple of times. This is another secret: too much kneading will make your biscuits hard and tough because too much air will be trapped in the dough.

Using floured hands, pinch off a piece of dough, form it into a smooth ball, and place it on a greased pan or cookie sheet. Continue placing dough pieces on the cookie sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. When you've used all the dough, grease your hand and flatten each biscuit ball until they touch each other.

Bake at 450 degrees for about 11-12 minutes. When you remove the cooked biscuits from the oven, cover them immediately with a clean dish towel. This will keep the biscuits soft and warm.

If you prefer more uniform biscuits, use a round biscuit cutter and cut 1/2-inch thick biscuits from the dough.

Read more about my pastry school, my online cooking school, and my online cooking classes below!

An important part of culinary arts in the South!
An important part of culinary arts in the South!

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